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Weight Less Kids

By Jorj Morgan

A recent article in People Magazine, titled "Weighty Problem" raised the disconcerting premise that a sedentary lifestyle is producing an epidemic of childhood obesity. It further questions what effect "fast food" contributes to overweight children and adolescents. The statistics are scary. Among those under the age of seventeen - obesity has more than doubled since the mid-sixties. According to the article, children that are 25 pounds above their ideal body weight are considered overweight while those that are 40 to 50 pounds above their ideal body weight are considered obese.

Look around you and this hypothesis makes a lot of sense. Think of yourself as a child - playing with pals after school and munching on home cooked family dinners each evening. The microwave hadn't been invented and the pizza delivery dude was not a job to be aspired to - let alone the guys in every other car driving through your neighborhood.

Today's lifestyle for children is totally different than that of twenty or thirty years ago and the resulting climbing weight gain is understandable. There are more indoor activities for children that keep them occupied and interested. A satellite dish produces hundreds of channels, video games are hooked up to bedroom TV's. The computer allows for a teenage social life without physical interaction. Food advertising encourages the value of repackaged bagel and cream cheese toaster pastry for breakfast and shuns the protein filled egg. School lunches are government mandated to include food groups from an out of date pyramid and under financed so that cheaper, more fat laden ingredients make their way to the buffet line. As mom's we work hard and long hours and with just a twinge of guilt drive through the fast food line hoping to gain an extra minute or two of quality time by not spending it preparing home cooked meals. All of these factors combine to produce children that will grow up overweight with a high percentage chance that future medical issues like hypertension and diabetes will be a part of their lives.

What's a mother to do?
First of all, we need to meet the overweight trend by establishing the basics of good eating habits and start now to fit in more exercise each day. There are tons of tricks and tactics that you can incorporate into a weekly meal plan that will steer your child's diet in the right direction without him even knowing what's going on. Whether your child is beginning to fall into bad habits or requires a gentle push to help him slim down, there are some great suggestions that make meal planning easier than you think.

First and foremost you must lead by example.
What's good for your child is good for you. Don't expect him to go outdoors and run around the block while you are sitting at your desk moving a mountain of paperwork. Instead, kick off your shoes, grab her by the hand and both of you take a brisk walk - together. Encourage a few extra yards a day, until you work up to a power walk of 20 to 30 minutes. In a couple of weeks you can add a few sit-ups and a push up or two. This is great "mommy and me" time with the extra benefit that regular daily exercise raises one's metabolism so that an increased number of calories are burned even while resting.

Eat more!
Studies show that if you eat the right things you can eat more of them than you think. Therefore - no one will feel deprived of food. For example - create a snack bowl that you keep filled with fresh fruit like apples oranges and bananas and dried fruit like apricots and cranberries. Include a small bowl of sunflower or pumpkin seeds and keep it all within reach. Encourage your child to grab anything he wants - whenever he wants.

A good rule is to include five servings of fresh fruit and veggies in your daily meal plan. This is not hard to do. A glass of juice in the morning, an apple or banana with lunch and a cup of grapes in the afternoon takes care of three fruit servings. Add celery or carrot sticks into the lunch box and fresh broccoli or green beans with dinner and you are there!

Incorporate whole grains in place of white starchy foods to gain important fiber in your child's diet. Exchange whole wheat bread for white bread that may be harder for the body to break down. Add brown rice in place of white and introduce legumes in place of potatoes. Legumes and beans are some of the best sources of cholesterol lowering fiber filled foods. In a daily meal plan include whole grain cereal for breakfast in place of cereals with high sugar content. Make a turkey sandwich with whole wheat bread for lunch. (Make sure that the words "whole" or "whole wheat" are listed next to the name of the ingredient and at the beginning of the list on the label.) Serve black beans, lentils or canned Garbanzo beans with dinner in place of pasta or potatoes.

Include low-fat dairy products in place of regular milk and cheese. Substitute fats that are high in saturated fat with lower versions and then try to reduce these in your daily diet. For example use a small amount of olive oil in your salad dressing in place of bottled dressings. Reduce the amount of butter that you serve with whole-wheat pancakes offering whipped margarine instead. Some pediatricians are reducing the amount of milk that they recommend for a child's diet in contrast to what most moms believe to be the case. Make sure that you check with your pediatrician and agree with his or her recommendations.

Incorporate fresh fish into your diet. Offer cooked shrimp for an after school snack. Serve grilled salmon for a quick and easy midweek meal. Canned tuna is an excellent source of protein. Choose skinless poultry and lean meat for easy suppers. The nutritional value of these foods is matched by their many ways of preparation and fast cooking time.

Ignore the bad stuff.
Get rid of high calorie sodas. My kids grab a soda in each hand and drink them with every meal, homework assignment and movie rental. Stop and take a look at the calories in each can. Multiply that by the number of sodas drunk in a day and you have hundreds of meaningless calories being consumed. Keep only diet sodas in the house and ask the kids to alternate them with bottles of water. Candy and chips are gobbled up faster than an adding machine can calculate the sum of their calories. Your children won't eat them if they aren't in the house! Eliminate them from your pantry and replace them with high grain low-in-sugar granola bars, frozen all-fruit juice bars, fresh popped popcorn and home baked cookies made with honey in place of sugar. A fun food plan.
Here are some do' and don'ts for fun meals for your family.
Do's Dont's
Whole Grain Cereal, Skim Milk, Fruit
Bagel with Cream Cheese
Two Scrambled Eggs with Sliced Tomatoes
Apple Turnover with Icing
English Muffin with Reduced Fat Peanut Butter

Scones, Biscuits or Doughnuts

Turkey Sandwich on Whole Wheat Bread
Fast Food Chicken Sandwich
Veggie and Seafood Salad with Lemon
Caesar Salad with prepared Dressing
Bowl of Veggie Soup and Leafy Salad

Cheese Pizza Slice

Turkey Burger with Roasted Potato Wedges
Fast Food Burger and Fries
Grilled Salmon and Veggies with Brown Rice
Barbecued Ribs with Potato and Macaroni Salads
Stir Fry Shrimp and Veggies with CouscousSpaghetti and Meatballs

Make meal time FUN.
The secret to a well-balanced meal plan is to make mealtime and exercise time FUN. You are already half way there - cause any time spent with Mom is fun time for your kids! Plan ahead and shop on weekends. Pick up fresh ingredients on the way home. Encourage your adolescent to help you prepare the meals so that you start the tradition of healthy cooking before he leaves the nest. Go to the playground with your little one - or encourage the entire family to walk the dog after dinner.

Don't Forget To CHEAT!
You and your kids deserve a treat for eating well and making great food choices - so cheat a little - every once in a while! Prepare a chocolate ice cream sundae on Sunday or go out for fried chicken on Friday. Your good meal plan is all about eating well and never about deprivation! Give it a try and you may surprise yourself and your kids with a whole new outlook on eating great- tasting nutritious meals and an occasional treat that tastes so much better that it did before!

Jorj Morgan is the Lifestyle Director of and the author of At Home In The Kitchen, a cookbook due in spring 2001. Share your good food meals with other BlueSuitMoms by sending her an email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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